Summer Wines in the Berkshires
by Timothy Eustis
Summer is a time to relax, and the Berkshires is the place to do it, both with culture and style. And what better way to complement a night on the lawn at Tanglewood, say, than with a charming bottle of wine? The job of The Wine Tasting Panel of the Berkshires is to help you select a great wine for just such an occasion.
The Tasting Panel was convened by Kollin Kozlowski CSW, wine director at Kelly’s Package Store in Dalton, Mass, as a way of culling from the literally hundreds of good wines in the marketplace to find the best summer white and red wine (for less than $20) in the region. Kozlowski had the idea of finding the perfect summer wines to showcase at his store as well as at local restaurants around the county. So he brought in a few of his compatriots in the wine business to help him select from the 160+ wines. And from the two blind tastings, held at the Red Lion Inn and Blantyre last month, we selected a “Best Of” white and red wine.
Kozlowski asked Massachusetts distributors to provide a number of their best suggestions for this category, as well as wines that will be readily available. “We are searching for wines that have authenticity, and are seeking to show some terroir, that is to say, a sense of place and vision,” he told us. What they aren’t searching for is an ordinary wine, one with too much fruit, or too much oak, or too little flavor. Additionally, “it has to reflect the season: on the lawn and on a picnic cloth… That’s the image this wine should give you. And why we went with a $20 maximum bottle price; for a night on the lawn, maybe you will splurge a little.”
Joining Kozlowski was Dan Thomas, the sommelier at The Red Lion Inn; Christelle Cotar, wine director at Blantyre; Caitlin Harrison, sommelier at Mezze in Williamstown; and yours truly, the wine director at The Stagecoach Tavern, in Sheffield. (Pic, left to right, Kollin Kozlowski, Christelle Cotar, Dan Thomas, and Caitlin Harrison.) “We were all quite impressed with the quality of wines that went into our glasses,” said Thomas. The distributors took their work seriously, providing us with such good wines, that it was surprising that we could even agree on a best-in-show.
Our panel spoke about their favorite wines, and it was interesting to note how many (actually, all save for one) came from Spain. Harrison found one of her preferred white wines, a 2011 Albariño from Licia in Rias Baixas, Spain, to be full of a “limey citrus quality, balanced with smoky minerality and an overall freshness and balance that demands a hot afternoon at Tanglewood. Drink it now and drink it often,” she said.
Cotar chose another white, the 2011 Godello
from Bodegas Rafael Palacios in Valdeorras, Spain. She noted that it had “complex notes of pear, quince and spice. Light on its feet, but it has rich flavors of pear, crisp apple. For me this wine showed all the terroir of a Grand Cru white Burgundy!”
Moving to the reds, Thomas chose a 2010 Garnacha (the Spanish name for the Grenache grape) by Castillo de Monseran from Carinena, Spain. He described its “light strawberry and kirsch notes with pepper and earth notes. A light (12.5% alcohol content) red wine with no apparent oak to mask the fruit. I can see enjoying this with a lot of grilled foods this summer.”
Kollin’s red choice was the 2011 Malbec Classico by Durigutti from Mendoza Argentina. Malbecs, especially those from Argentina, are known to be full-bodied, perhaps more for autumnal or winter fare, but, he said, “this red wine is so impeccably balanced it doesn’t matter how rich and textured it is. It has refined black cherry fruit with a hint of blueberry, spicy oak and vanilla notes that highlight but don’t overpower. BBQ…whether you’re serving teriyaki tuna or New York strip steak this Malbec will suit it all.”
The top white vote-getter is the 2012 Getariako Txakolina from Ameztoi in Gipuzkos, Spain. (Yes, we know there is no way to pronounce this correctly. But it sure tastes good!) In the north of Spain, at the foot of the Pyrenees, is the Basque Country, a cool, windy, and sparse region that produces an obscure white wine, Txakoli. This low alcohol white is super intense with crisp acidity and pure lime. We thought the thirst-quenching, spritzy quality to this wine would match best with lightly grilled fresh oysters and it would cut through fatty charred red meats.
Finally, our number one red is the 2009 Cannonau (another name for Grenache) Riserva from Sella & Mosca in Sardinia, Italy. This wine shows all the expected flavors of raspberry and kirsch with a solid acidic structure, with a bit more complexity than we were expecting. This Cannonau epitomizes a summer red because of its versatility: soft and light enough to match with cedar-planked salmon but with structure to stand up to a richer grilled tenderloin.
You can find these wines at Kelly’s. As well, The Red Lion Inn and Mezze will be showcasing their particular selections. And you should be able to find any of the above wines at your local retailer.
2011 Albariño from Licia; Rias Baixas, Spain
, Bodegas Rafael Palacios; Valdeorras, Spain
* 2012 Getariako Txakolina, Ameztoi; Gipuzkos, Spain
2010 Garnacha, Castillo de Monseran; Carinena, Spain
2011 Malbec Classico, Durigutti; Mendoza, Argentina
* 2009 Cannonau Riserva, Sella & Mosca; Sardinia, Italy
* denotes “Best of” Tasting